Cook Islands looking into recruiting New Zealanders to fill tourism sector shortage

The Cook Islands are looking at recruiting Kiwis to work in the tourism sector amid increased demand following the closure of the trans-Tasman bubble.

Kiwis are swapping their Aussie holidays for islands ones - but the influx of tourism is highlighting a staff shortage.

Fletcher Melvin, the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce chair, told Newshub the business is desperately needed.

"We've had no business the past year, basically."

Although the islands are thrilled to have tourism back, Melvin says lots of people moved out of the tourism sector when the borders closed - leaving a hole in the industry. 

He says one solution could be hiring New Zealanders to come and work.

"There has been some talk of making it easier for people to come from New Zealand especially the large Cook Island population that do live in New Zealand," he said.

The Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington and the Consulate in Auckland have been in discussion about how best to recruit people to fill the gaps, says Melvin.

"They are talking about forming an agency that reaches out and does the recruitment [but] most Cook Islanders here have someone in New Zealand so [it] wouldn't take much to put the word out."

Despite the shortage, Melvin says overall the Islands are just thrilled to have visitors again.

"But everyone is just really happy to have people here. We're ready for it and certainly looking forward to welcoming the tourists."

And demand is ramping up too.

"We started and were happy to have one flight a day. Then it was five flights a week then every week we added more and now we're up to 13 flights and we're expecting that to climb," he said.

The Islands are busy right the way through to December - a welcome change after a year of closed borders.